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Archive for April, 2018

Grocery Shopping

April 30th, 2018 at 08:28 am

My grocery shop used to be about $100-120 per week and now it's more like $115-130.

I have a few theories about why this is:
- F is almost a teenager and eating A LOT
- F and I both have to eat gluten free which is slightly more expensive
- I buy organic where possible and now that we've paid off our mortgage, this is the one place I've bought better ingredients and skimped less

Here is our meal plan for this week:
- frito pies
- hearts of palm with coleslaw
- gambino crime
- salmon cakes
- crustless quiche
- freezer
- chicken taquitos

Here, for the record is what we bought (this is a long list, sorry, but just in case anyone is interested; I shop at Trader Joe's and Sprouts. I wish we had an Aldi). Total spend was $127.98:

Dinner Ingredients for 7 dinners ($44.28):
Frozen chicken, 2.5 lbs (3 meals worth) - 7.49
Cream cheese (also for breakfast) - 1.99
Goat cheese (also for lunches) - 4.99
Sour cream (will last 2 weeks) - 2.99
Plain yoghurt (also for breakfast) - 1.99
Eggs - 3.99
Frozen edamame (2 meals worth) - 1.79
Green onions - 1.29
Bok choy - 1.99
Tinned salmon - 3.29
Corn tortillas - 1.29
Salsa verde (also for snacks) - 1.99
Hearts of palm - 2.99
Broccoli - .71
Cilantro - .50
Green cabbage - .57
Lettuce - .99
Lime - .50
Red pepper - .50
Red cabbage (some used for lunches and salads) - 1.44
3 ears of corn on the cob - 1.00

Staples ($5.18):
Almond milk - 2.69
Irish breakfast tea for D - 2.49

Advisory Snack (we are responsible this week) ($5.98):
String cheese - 2.99
Crackers GF - 2.99

Breakfast items ($19.01):
Eggs - 3.99
D's bread (also for sandwiches) - 2.49
our GF bread (lasts 2 weeks) - 4.99
our GF bagels (last 2 weeks) - 4.49
2 potatoes - .98
yellow onion - .31
Large grapefruit for me and F - 1.76

Lunch Items and snacks ($37.45):
Sliced turkey for D (this will last 1.5 weeks) - 4.99 x2
Cookies for F - 3.99
Carrots - .79
Crackers - 2.29
Crisps for D - 1.99
Crisps for me and F - 2.29
Seaweed snack - .99
Tortilla chips (large bag) - 4.49
Apples 2 lb - 2.99
3 bananas - .57
Mandarins 2 lb - 2.99
Larabars (2) - 2.00
2 mangos - 1.00
Strawberries - .98
Cucumbers 2 - 1.00
Avocado - .99
Kiwis - 1.00
Radishes - .50
Tomato - .18

Baking ingredients ($9.03):
Chocolate chips - 1.99
Dark chocolate 1 lb. - 4.99
Sugar 2 lb - 2.05

Sunday lunch (we get something like this instead of eating out on the grocery shopping day!) ($3.69):
Trader Joe's black bean taquitos - 3.69

I know there are places we could cut back (chips!!), but I try to remember that this is 7 days of meals, three meals a day, and we don't eat out this week.

Broken Part on Boiler

April 22nd, 2018 at 06:58 pm

F and I walked into the garage today on our way to the grocery store and smelled gas! Yikes! I called D who was out on a run, and left the garage door open to air it out.

He called the Gas Company and they came right away. They red tagged our boiler, but let us know that it was just the pilot light that is broken, not any other part (he checked everything) and told us to get a reputable plumber who wouldn't try to fix other things that aren't broken.

Luckily it's warm here now and we don't need our boiler. We use two plumbers and they are both good and honest. I called the first one and he is out of town until Tuesday. I will call the second one tomorrow.

Unexpected expense, but I have $600 in household repairs.

Frugal Things Today

April 21st, 2018 at 07:01 pm

Frugal stuff from today:

- A 12 noon soccer game... we drove F and her friend down to the game. I made turkey wraps rather than going out (saved money and the girls got to eat right away). I also brough cucumber, cuties and some tortilla chips. And a couple of cookies, but they didn't eat them because the coach brought brownies (and GF cupcakes for F and her teammate L) because it was the last official game of the season. Now the tournaments start.

- We went to the library today when we got home because F finished another book, and realized at the end that it's a series. I saw online that the library had the next book, and she got two others as well.

- I started a new book on my phone (also from the library). It's really terrible, but entertaining. When we were at the library I saw they had the new Philip Pullman. I want to read it, but first I think I need to re-read His Dark Materials since it's been 14 years since I read it. We have a copy on the shelf (the same copy I read 14 years ago in Dublin, because D had the books).

- Got a postcard for a gallery opening for a show by the woman who was my landlord when I first moved here in 1993. We became friends instantly, but drifted apart when she was spending most of her time in Hawaii. I can't wait to go and see her! I sent her an email; hope she writes back.

- I started negotiating the contracts for my engineers on my new fire station project. So far just structural engineering, but he accepted my fee proposal - good news! On Monday: mechanical/electrical/plumbing and civil engineering.

- Got paid by one of my gyms: $52. I made $100 at the other gym this month, so total for the month of $152. The way I look at it is they pay me for exercising.

- I was given a free pass to try a class at OrangeTheory fitness. Have you tried it? It is $28/class (!!!!) as opposed to being paid to work out, so there's no way I'll be going regularly.

- We are using up some stuff in the freezer this week... make your own pizzas and frito pies (I made enough beans last time for two meals).

- Going to clean F's bathroom tonight. She still prefers baths to showers, and so I clean the tub when she gets out (it's easier when it's already wet). Not sure this is frugal, but somehow for me lifehacks are mentally linked to frugality (time saving?).

Warning about Earny! (and others like it)

April 18th, 2018 at 08:35 am

I saw that a few of my friends use Earny, so I got on their website to take a look.

The premise is that they pay you the difference in what you paid for an item if the price drops.

Here's the thing, though: when you go to sign up, it gives you this message:
"Earny wants to access your Google Account
This will allow Earny to:
Read, send, delete, and manage your email"

Whaaaaaaat? Read, send, delete and manage my email???!!!!!

I didn't sign up. It seems slightly insane. Wondering if anyone here has experience with Earny?

Spring wind, soccer tournament lodging and a rant about work

April 17th, 2018 at 07:18 pm

Spring. The wind has been so bad that they keep canceling soccer practice due to air quality issues (dust in the air!). F had to have PE inside today, too. She's not very happy about it, but what can you do? It meant I didn't get a workout today, either (I usually walk/run during soccer practice).

I did walk to meet my friend to take her out for lunch for her birthday. The wind was just starting to kick up. Afterward, walked to the City to drop something off at Land Use, and then walked back to the office. A little bit of exercise, I guess, before air got really bad. I could smell a fire somewhere, too.

We had leftover chili for dinner, and I made cornbread to go with it.

Other frugal stuff: we got a condo to stay in for the soccer tournament in Flagstaff; we are sharing with 2 other families and it ends up being less than half what a hotel would be. And access to a pool! Not to mention that it will be more fun, and we'll have a fridge and somewhere to cook!

Now the not so great part of last week: I did not even get shortlisted for the project that I submitted a proposal for. It's not that I always expect to be shortlisted, but this was a fire station, and I have designed a lot of fire stations in our area. They've all been really successful (close to zero change orders!), and the firefighters always request to transfer into my stations.

Well... another architect who was shortlisted was talking to my office mate, and they were discussing how shocked they were that I didn't make the shortlist. My office mate said he wanted to tell me because he knew it was going to make me crazy otherwise: the architect said that the new head of projects at the City told him that they know I have a child, and if my child has a cold or something I might not be able to make a meeting.

On the one hand, this is a way of saying that my firm is not big enough for their comfort level which is a valid concern.... although the Project Architect (heading up the project) will always have that problem no matter what the firm size - you can't just send a junior person because they can't make decision. I have people to send instead of me, too, but they wouldn't be able to make decisions or know the project as well as I know it.

On the other hand this sounds so sexist I can't even believe it. Would they say that about a man with a child?

I haven't spoken to the Fire Chief (he wasn't on the selection committee). It's a bummer because this is a big project, but I always believe that when I don't get a project, there's a reason, like the project would be a nightmare in some way (and this one really could be - I won't get into why, but there are signs in addition to the fact that the City's project manager doesn't like that I have a family).

The good news: the County (not City) accepted my fee proposal for a different fire station so that should get started soon.

The other (possibly) good news: I have a meeting on Thursday to discuss another project that could help me branch out into other areas (I've done police station, library, lots of fire stations, but this is something new!).

The other good news: what the City's project manager doesn't like about me is what I like best about myself and my work situation - I can be there for my daughter (she is growing up so fast!). So if a client isn't ok with that, they're not the client for me!



Planned and Unplanned Expenses

April 14th, 2018 at 12:35 pm

We've had some large-ish expenses around here, some planned, some unplanned.

Property Taxes (second half of the year) - Planned - $1254.76 from the sinking fund, and still have $135 left in that category (which is good because our taxes go up each year).

New soccer ball - Unplanned (her ball got a weird split in the seams and the inside was splooging out) - $21.69 - took from the sports supplies category which still has $73 in it, which is good because F needs new running shoes.

Pillow - Sort of planned - because of F's allergies, I needed to get a new (non-feather) pillow for myself and her last visit to the allergist confirmed this. She crawls into bed with us sometimes to watch tv or read, and we just need to limit her exposure as much as possible - I just took half the stuffing out and saved it in a bag (I like a flat pillow and this was already supposed to be a flat pillow, ha ha). $35

Air Filter for F's Room - Unplanned (but strongly suggested by the allergist) - $124

Vet Visit - Unplanned - $130 - our Pets sinking fund is now negative, ugh. Need to fill it up from another category. Our poor dog has had gooey eyes, and it turns out that she is not producing enough tears. It happens to some dogs when they age. The $130 was for vet visit, eyedrops and some goo to keep her eyes moist (that we can get at the drugstore next time according to D).

Hoping that the groceries are under budget this month...

One more planned expense: somewhere to stay in Flagstaff for the soccer tournament in May. I'll discuss getting a condo with one of the moms today at the game. Hotels are expensive, and if we can share a condo it'll be a lot less. It's 382 miles there and back, so I estimated $62 in gas. Then hotel. So we will be bringing a big cooler so we don't have to eat out the whole time! I'm sure there will be a big team dinner, which will be fun! But breakfast and lunch can be from our own supplies.

What I saved money on:
- ate lunch from home all month so far (but taking my friend out for her birthday on Tuesday)
- no costs for entertainment (on the weekends we play basketball at the park and go to F's soccer games)
- a good friend just gave me a present (she pre-ordered the Greatest Showman for me because she said it's my kind of movie - feelgood - and I never go to movies) - tonight's entertainment!
- have been working so hard and work has been difficult and stressful, and sometimes I think I'll stop and get a fancy tea latte to make myself feel better, but then I reconsider, and I haven't splurged at all so I'm very proud!
- reading a library book on my phone (free!) and have a list of other books for when I finish this one
- have a pile of socks to darn (ok, so I haven't done this yet, but I will!)
- did most of the housework this morning (I am including this because I don't have a cleaning person!)

Our Meal Plan and Why it's Frugal

April 7th, 2018 at 04:54 pm

I think my daughter is HANGRY. She played all 70 minutes of the soccer game today and that doesn't include the warmup. I have, of course, been feeding her all day, before and immediately after and since the game. I am going to go make dinner in 5 minutes.

But first, while I'm thinking about food...

Here is our meal plan and "why it's frugal."

S - flacas with mini peppers (flacas are two corn tortillas, dry pan fried with beans and cheese) - Frugal because not meat-based, corn tortillas are a cheap grain, we already have some extra mini peppers on hand...
S - asian meatballs - Made with ground turkey instead of ground beef, we put in a couple of diced green onions and some garlic and ginger, make a sauce with leftover marinara/rice vinegar and add some rice - nothing exotic or expensive. Usually a vegetable on the side - whatever is on sale.
M - pasta with zucchini and goat cheese - No-meat meal. Goat cheese from Trader Joe's is affordable - this uses about half a package and we use the rest for lunches.
T - aloo gobi with rice - Makes a ton! No meat, two potatoes, one head of cauliflower and some onion and spices - I think the whole dinner is less than $5. This is made in the crockpot which is good for soccer night.
W - lemon crumbed fish with veg and cheddar bay biscuits - The fish is not cheap but we buy whatever vegetable is on sale at Sprouts and make our own cheddar bay biscuits. I have the breadcrumbs from bread heels in the freezer ready to use. Probably one of our more expensive dinners, but definitely under $15 total.
Th - freezer and salad - We have some posole and chili in the freezer, leftover from a crockpot meal specifically for soccer nights when we don't get home until 7:30 at the earliest. We make a salad with lettuce ($1) and some radishes, shredded carrot and sunflower seeds. Homemade salad dressing that I always have in the fridge.
F - tacos - One last soccer night to deal with. Corn tortillas, a little bit of shredded chicken made in the crockpot, sour cream, salsa, lettuce... Or we might do these veggie with avocados instead of chicken.

Now time to feed one hungry girl... and two hungry adults... and a dog and a cat.

Work Budget

April 5th, 2018 at 09:16 am

My work financials are tied into my personal financials because my business is an S-corp and I am the only employee. I have things very separate, so sometimes it's hard to remember that in the end, it's all just our money.

#1 - Projects
If I don't have projects, I don't have work, and then I don't have a paycheck. I have to do marketing (proposals) to get projects. I just turned in 4 proposals and got shortlisted on 3 (the other one I just turned in, so not sure yet). Of the three, I was contacted that I won one of them, lost one of them, and the other won just had the interview on Monday, so not sure about that yet either. Anyway, we are in negotiations on the one I won, and it's making me so nervous. It's a new fire station, and I really want it, and I submitted my fee. They came back that they wanted me to include landscape architecture from a certain firm and a professional cost estimate. That's about $10k of extra work ($10k I have to pay someone else). I absorbed most of it. I hope this works out. But every penny of the $10k comes out of my pocket.

#2 - Dining Out
I have a budget for taking clients out, but like my personal budget, this seems like excess, the only place to cut costs. But it's a marketing cost, really. I just made a lunch meeting with head of one of my Design Review Committees.

#3 - Supplies
I hate buying supplies. Ink for the printer costs so much. This is another category which is one of those rare places I can save. I have to keep supplies at home, too, because I work from there in the afternoons after I pick up F from school. So I need the printer there to have ink, paper...